O Black and Unknown Bards

“O Black and Unknown Bards” is an interactive workshop designed to explore the history of the spirituals and how to incorporate the rich legacy of these songs into today’s musical lexicon. Spirituals pose root questions of life: suffering, endurance, and transcendence, using inspired artistry to provide human responses to those questions. From codified protest songs to soaring anthems, spirituals speak to ourselves, “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Join us for an exploration of the songs composed by anonymous communities of African slaves whose endurance and humanity left our country the treasures of the spirituals. The workshop will be led by Bennie L Williams, the founder and musical director of Denver’s Bennie L Williams Spiritual Voices. It will be presented in advance of the choir’s concert later in the convention week

bennie williams

Ms. Williams’ philosophy of directing the choir is for song to reflect the emotional richness of surviving spirituals. She wants choir members to get outside their 21st Century Denver lives to find what the message of the song is; or what Ms. Williams calls the “spirit and cadence of the song”. A “work” piece has one feel to it; a song “pleading” for relief has another. One of her frequent saying is: “You can sing all the notes right, but if you don’t impart the meaning of the song, why bother.” Bringing not only the accuracy of the music, but the spirit of the music, to our audience is what sets this group apart from others.